The Raffles Collection

Sir Stamford Raffles
Sir Stamford Raffles. Shelfmark: MSS Eur D742/14.6.8

The British Library holds papers, archives, manuscripts, drawings and printed books relating to Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles (1781–1826), an employee of the East India Company who served in Southeast Asia and founded a British settlement at Singapore in 1819.

About the collection

Raffles’s important collections relating to the natural history, languages, literatures and cultures of the Malay world were built up during his service in Penang (1805-1810), Melaka (1811), Java (1811-1816) and Bengkulu in Sumatra (1817-1824). While his Javanese collections have survived, those from Sumatra were mostly lost when his ship the Fame caught fire in 1824.

Materials include: 

  • Official papers documenting Raffles’s career in the East India Company in the India Office Records, particularly in the Java, Sumatra and Straits Settlements Factory Records
  • Private Papers from the India Office and the Western Manuscripts collections, including:
  • Malay manuscripts given by Raffles to John Leyden
  • Natural history drawings commissioned or collected in Penang, Java and Sumatra
  • Topographical drawings from Java, Sumatra and Singapore
  • Printed works by Raffles, including his seminal History of Java (London, 1817)

What is available online?

All Malay manuscripts and letters relating to Raffles have been digitised.

The Spice Trail is an online exhibition featuring some of the natural history drawings.

The wreck of the Fame features digitised letters and reports concerning the loss of Raffles’s ship Fame in 1824.

Raffles’s account of the eruption of Mount Tambora in 1815 was published in his Memoir (1830).

What is available in our Reading Rooms?

Printed works are listed on our online catalogue Explore the British Library, while archives and manuscripts are catalogued online on Explore Archives and Manuscripts.

What is available in other organisations?

Raffles’s personal collection of Malay and Javanese manuscripts is in the Royal Asiatic Society. His collection of Javanese antiquities, archaeological drawings, textiles, weapons, shadow puppets, masks and gamelan instruments, brought back from Java in 1816, is in the British Museum.

Further information

  • Adam, Ahmat, Letters of Sincerity: The Raffles collection of Malay letters (1780-1824), a descriptive account with notes and translation (Kuala Lumpur, 2009)
  • Archer, Mildred and John Bastin, The Raffles drawings in the India Office Library London (Kuala Lumpur, 1978)
  • Noltie, H. J., Raffles’ Ark Redrawn: Natural History Drawings from the Collection of Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles (London, 2009)
  • Ricklefs, M. C., P. Voorhoeve and Annabel Teh Gallop, Indonesian manuscripts in Great Britain: a catalogue of manuscripts in Indonesian languages in British public collections. New Edition with Addenda et Corrigenda (Jakarta, 2014)